Shalom can be defined as peace. It is only change that first happens inside of us that leads to change on the outside.
God’s desire is for His fullness, completeness, peace, provision, image and nature to cover us as individuals, to fill your community, the city and the ultimately the earth.
There is a song by a band named Leeland. In this song, “Tears of the Saints,” the singer cries out because of the brokenness and desperation all around. The opening line sets the stage for the entire song, “There are many prodigal sons, on our city streets they run searching for shelter.” He yearns for God’s glory, in essence his Shalom, and calls the ‘saints’ to guide the lost home. The pre-chorus grips my heart as the singer repeats “this is an emergency, this is an emergency.”
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of today’s issues. We can sometimes find ourselves asking, “How change can occur?” We see shootings, drugs, crime, and severe fractioning of the family and we may be inclined to back down, or isolate ourselves. Why fight? What will change? Worse yet, we may have become so desensitized that we find ourselves like a frog, gradually coming to a boil, emerged in a lukewarm pot of tolerance. Forgetting truths we may no longer see that there are emergencies around us.
So what does this mean for us, what are we to do?
You see, the world’s systems do not lead to peace. They usually leave sorrow. But God’s system, His way of living and doing adds no sorrow but leads to peace, or Shalom. Our ways of living, thinking and doing is often not how God intended it to be.
Shalom can be defined as comprehensive peace. It is a Hebrew word that means far more than the absence of conflict or strife. According to Clifford Green, “this rich term fills out the word community by embracing well-being, contentment, wholeness, prosperity, safety, and rest.” So then, ‘shalom’ in the city can in part mean being a good neighbor. However, it is not just random acts of kindness that bring this shalom. In fact, we find that it is a matter of the heart where change takes seed. It is only change that first happens inside of us that leads to change on the outside. Eventually this change can work through us, manifesting itself in actions yes, acts of love to those around us. Love that is unconditional can simply mean feeding someone who is hungry, or giving someone a ride to church. For us Shalom is the essence of Jesus’ commandments and great commission. It is our mandate and the posture. This is what brings the true Shalom in the city.
The story of Christianity is the story of God bringing redemption to His creation. At the same time, there will be no Shalom if we are not the ambassadors. Pastor and writer Rob Bell stated that he once “heard a teacher say that if people were taught more about who they are, they wouldn’t have to be told what to do. It would come naturally. When we see religious communities spending most of their time trying to convince people not to sin, we are seeing a community that has missed the point. The point is not sin management.” Instead, we should be illuminating what is good, loving without conditions, forming relationships and living out the fullness of grace and truth. We live the Shalom found through God’s story and it then changes the city.